Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: Friday, July 5, 2120

Mateo and Leona argued yesterday. The latter demanded to go with the former and Ellie to The Fourth Quadrant, and Mateo wasn’t having it. In the end, she had too many cards to play, what with him constantly abandoning her, and his indiscretion with Cassidy. She also had a point that she knew more about the cuffs than he or Ellie did. But then Sanaa caught wind of their plans, and argued that she was actually more proficient with them. They never did figure out how to co-opt Jupiter’s power, or so much as contact him, but she knew everything else about them. The next year, Ariadna asked where they were going, and there was even more arguing, because she didn’t understand how they were going to get into this new reality.
“Oh, that’s just this thing,” Ellie assured her.
“You’re not gonna dismiss me,” Ariadna said. “You know, don’t you? You know what I can do. How? I’ve worked really hard to curate a timeline where no one knows who I am, and what I’ve been through.”
“I’ve been doing the same,” Ellie explained. “Lots of people have told me lots of things without remembering it, because it never happened.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Sanaa jumped in. “You’ve been able to cross back to the main sequence this whole time?”
“What?” Ariadna asked. “No. I mean...I don’t think so. Dimensions and realities aren’t the same thing. Right?”
They all looked to Leona, who was surprisingly unsure of herself. “I don’t know everything about physics. Asking me that question is like asking me whether black holes exist. No one knows.”
“Black holes don’t exist?”
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“Let’s get off of whatever this is,” Ellie said. “Madam Traversa, I’m sorry I wasn’t honest about why I was here, but as I understand it, my ability to adopt your ability does not affect you. It doesn’t drain you of your energy, or force you to be a part of it. These cuffs just copy and paste your code, so I can borrow it.”
“Why didn’t you tell us then?” Sanaa questioned.
“I wanted to do this alone, so no one else would be in danger.”
“How very noble of you,” came a voice from outside the circle. It was Jupiter.
“Thank you for coming, Your Grace,” Sanaa said to him jokingly.
“I’ve been listening to your conversations—”
“You have?” Mateo asked. “How?”
“There’s a microphone in each cuff, obviously,” Sanaa explained.
“Obviously,” Jupiter agreed.
“Are you gonna try to stop me?” Ellie asked Jupiter.
“Nope, but I have some conditions, one for each of you. Ariadna, after this mission, you must relinquish your cuffs, and give them to Mr. Bearimy.”
“No, I’m the one wearing J.B.’s cuffs,” Ellie reminded him.
“That doesn’t matter,” Jupiter contended. “I was not aware of the extent of The Escapologists’s time powers. I can’t have you people slipping back and forth at will. So Aria, you have to leave, and you can’t involve yourself with this team ever again. Ellie, if you do this, you have to remain on the Bearimy-Matic pattern. While she has to leave, you have to stay. You wanted the cuffs, you got ‘em.”
“I can do that,” Ellie promised.
Leona frowned. “El, are you sure? He hasn’t said how long we’re doing this.”
Ellie shrugged. “I ain’t got nothin’ but time. I’ll get back to my other friends later, and it’ll be fine.”
“Leona,” Jupiter went on, “you can’t go.”
“I’m sorry?” she asked, perturbed.
“If the others do this, you have to stay behind with J.B., so if something goes wrong, the two of you can rebuild the team.”
“That’s bullshi—”
“Leelee,” Sanaa stopped her. “Rule Number Fifteen.” It was a relatively new entry into Leona’s Rules of Time Travel. Don’t antagonize the antagonist. Mateo didn’t consider Jupiter an antagonist anymore, but the others could be forgiven for continuing to believe as much.
Leona bit her lip, and didn’t say anything else.
“Sanaa, that brings me to you,” Jupiter began. “The people living in the Fourth Quadrant have created a new society. They wouldn’t belong anywhere else. If you try to bring them into the main sequence, Beaver Haven will just find a way to lock them all up again, so the two realities don’t interfere with each other.”
“Cool,” Sanaa sassed. “What does that have to do with me? This is Ellie’s mission.”
“You’ll still be able to save them, but you’re going to solve the problem in a different way. In order to do this, you’ll need to extract someone else from the main sequence. Kismet has it that today is perfect for the side mission. This individual doesn’t need to be rescued, but you need their time power.”
“Again, cool,” Sanaa repeated, “and again, what does that have to do with me?”
“You specifically don’t like this person, but you’re going to have to ignore that, and extract them anyway.”
“Who?” Mateo asked, more curious than anything.
“Finally, Mateo.”
“Oh, no.”
Jupiter smirked. “You have the power to cancel this whole mission, and if you do, you’ll be able to get back to the Vearden mission instead.”
“You won’t let me save him if I do this?” Mateo guessed.
“No, you’ll still be able to try,” Jupiter swore, “but there is a new limitation. You can’t transfer his mind to a clone.”
“What?” Leona shouted. “That’s the whole point! We can’t get him out without changing the timeline unless we do it this way. A clone is the only option.”
“You can’t transfer his mind,” Jupiter said again. “I have no particular reason for this, but I’m trying to disincentivize you from going against my brother. You said it, Rule Number Fifteen; I’ll let you risk it, if you really want to, but it’s gonna cost you. Ariadna, you can save this whole group by overriding my power to force you to stay in this reality. Ellie, you have to put yourself in danger. I know you think it doesn’t matter, since you’re a time traveler, but the more you live in one time period, the greater the chances are that you’ll die. That’s just how life works: older people have had more time to die, so be thinking about whether you want to risk never getting back to Trinity. Leona, you hate feeling useless, so you’re sitting this one out. Sanaa, you hate people, so...that’s it, that’s how I’m discouraging you. And Mateo, you either fail to save the Fourth Quadrant, or you fail to save Vearden. Choose.”
“I choose to save both,” Mateo said.
“Mateo,” Leona almost scolded, “there’s no other way. We all watched him die. We have to transfer his consciousness, or what happened, happened.”
“Trust me,” Mateo asked of her. This was something he had been thinking about for a while now. While he didn’t think of Jupiter as an antagonist, that didn’t mean he wasn’t an obstacle. He worded the new proviso in a specific way, and it wasn’t clear if he did it on purpose, or if Mateo was just the smarter one here, who came up with a loophole all on his own. If the latter was true, then he had to keep it all a secret. From everyone. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
Jupiter seemed almost impressed, even though Mateo hadn’t done anything yet. “Very well. If no one objects, please ask the transporter tech to return the four of you to Earth. Once you arrive, the map will direct you to your next transition window. Good luck.” That being said, Jupiter disappeared through his own window.
They bid their farewells to Leona, then went back to Earth, where their Cassidy cuffs directed them to the Kansas City area. They ate a meal, and played a couple rounds of RPS-101 Plus on their tablets while they waited for the window. About three hours later, the field around them flickered, revealing the terraces of Crown Center. It quickly ended, and deposited one Missy Atterberry into this reality. She wasn’t scared, but curious about what had happened. She didn’t have much time to make some guesses, though. Sanaa stood up, and stared at her with a passionate hatred. This was her? This was the person Sanaa hated so much? Mateo didn’t know her all that well. She died quickly after they met in the pre-Hitler assassination timeline, and every memory he had of her since was from Leona’s perspective, because he didn’t exist for that period of time. She appeared just after he left, and was gone before he came back to life.
“You,” Sanaa growled.
“Oh, crap,” was all Missy could say.
Like a bull in a stadium, Sanaa leaned forward, and literally charged at her opponent. Were they actually going to get themselves into a fist fight? Surely not. And no, they didn’t. Missy raised her hand instinctually, and pushed Sanaa into a time bubble. She hovered there, nearly frozen in place, but still technically moving.
“Report,” Mateo said to Missy.
“I agreed to stay out of her personal timeline,” Missy defended. “She was born in 2203, and I promised to never go back to the 24th century, so if I’m here, it’s not my fault. Someone else brought me here.”
“It’s 2120,” Ariadna clarified.
“That’s impossible,” Missy argued. “She’s not supposed to travel through time. That’s why it’s been this easy to avoid her.”
“She broke that rule,” Mateo explained. “Why does she hate you so much?”
Before Missy could answer, Sanaa disappeared from inside the bubble, and reappeared just outside of it. The now empty bubble remained, however. “You can’t slow me down! I can escape any dimension now!” She tried to attack Missy, but didn’t get far before something caused her to collapse, and reach for her ears.
Out of the corner of his eye, Mateo could see Ellie’s lips wrapped around a whistle. No sound was coming out of it, so she must have been teleporting the waves directly into Sanaa’s ears. She opened her mouth, and let the whistle fall down to her chest. Then she spoke for all to hear. “You’re gonna talk first. You try anything like that again, and I’ll make you go deaf. You’ll wish you were still psychic, so at least you could talk to people again.”
Sanaa stood up, her face still contorted, but she nodded once to agree to Ellie’s demands.
“Now,” Mateo started to say, kind of sounding like he was trying to take charge. “I’m outnumbered here. I’m gonna sit on the sidelines, and let you ladies work it out. I’ll be nearby if you need anything, though.”
Ariadna stuck her index finger up, like she was trying to delicately summon the waiter. “I’ll come with.”
“Do you know what happened between those two?” he asked once they were away from the other three.
“I make a point of staying out of people’s business.”
“Yeah, why is that? You’re such a nice and even-tempered person, yet you seem just as isolated as Sanaa is. Do you not like people?”
“People think that about me. I mean, I live in a frickin’ pyramid, so I can’t blame them. The truth is that’s hard to explain.”
“I’m patient, and understanding.”
“I know that about you. I’m just...better at observing than I am interacting with others. I don’t like to...” She sighed. “I don’t like to do things.”
“Anything. I don’t have any hobbies, and I don’t care for social situations. I don’t dislike people, but I don’t get anything out of conversing with them most of the time. I just wanna sit in my little corner of the world, listen to classical music, read trashy romance novels, and maybe watch a little TV. I’ve never had any interest in going out to restaurants, or seeing a rock concert, or visiting a museum.”
“Well, that’s not that weird,” Mateo said. “Extroverts think that sounds like a really sad life, but I get it. Not everyone’s days are filled with mystery and intrigue.”
Ariadna went on, “I remember when I was a kid, my mom tried to sign me up for some sports team. I don’t even recall which sport, but it wasn’t attached to my school, it was the county, or something. Either way, I told her I didn’t like to play sports, but she said that wasn’t the point. She said it was a great way to meet people. So I’m like, so what? What’s so great about meeting people? She shook her head, like I was nothing more than an insolent child, but that wasn’t a rhetorical question. I really wanted to know what intrinsic value there was in meeting new people.
“Well, she didn’t have an answer for me, because there isn’t a good one. Two full days later, she came back to me and claimed it was about building a network. I may be stranded at a movie theatre in a blizzard one night, and I’ll wish I had someone to call who liked me enough to give me a ride. I pointed out that this was a selfish reason to try to meet people, so the conversation ended there, and we never talked about it again. I was an adult before I realized on my own that I should have been looking at it the opposite way, and she should have framed it that way instead.”
“How’s that?” Mateo prompted.
She sighed again. “I should have made friends, so I could be available when someone else needed help in a blizzard.”
Mateo nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“Anyway, by then I was too used to being alone, and can make friends as an adult unless, that is, you never did it as a kid. New adult friends expect you to already have friends, because they want to meet them! I just couldn’t make any connections. So I gave up, and went back to the way I’ve always liked it, sitting comfortably in my pyramid.”
“Are you going to go back when the Fourth Quadrant is over? The pyramids don’t exist in the Parallel, but I suppose that doesn’t matter to you anymore. You’re free to travel wherever you want.”
“Well, I don’t use my powers, because they feel just as pointless as skydiving or having sex with people. But I’m not sure if—”
“Okay,” Ellie interrupted them. “Sanaa and Missy have signed a temporary ceasefire, and Missy has agreed to help us with the Fourth Quadrant. I guess all that Jupiter will let us do is adjust their speed of time. That’s kind of besides the point,’s what we got. Get some rest. Busy day tomorrow. Could be our last.”

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